The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) slapped Hard Rock Atlantic City with a $5,000 fine for failing to notify the agency of a key employment decision.

Mann Lien, vice president of Asian marketing for Hard Rock AC, began working for the Atlantic City casino July 9. The division was notified of Lien’s status Oct. 22, after inquiring about Lien with Hard Rock officials.

Hard Rock AC gets a slap on the wrist

Hard Rock Atlantic City has been the darling of the Boardwalk since before it opened its doors in June. It courted officials, residents and the press during every step of its renovation journey.

It seemed as if it could do no wrong. Well, even the best-behaved kids act up once in a while. And to be fair, the fine is more of a slap on the wrist than anything.

The Casino Control Act requires casinos to petition for qualification and notify regulators of changes in key management positions.

David Rebuck, director of the DGE, wrote a letter to Hard Rock dated Oct. 29.

As reported in the Press of Atlantic City, Rebuck wrote, “of import in this instance, the position of vice president of Asian marketing and Mr. Lien’s appointment to that position arose from and was related to the initial casino licensure.”

The letter also states Hard Rock “has agreed to pay in recognition of the seriousness of its failures related to non-compliance as to the mandates.”

One day after receiving the letter, Hard Rock sought a qualification waiver for Lien from the DGE. The property has not commented publicly on the issue.

Hard Rock AC sportsbook to launch soon

The fine came at a time when all eyes are watching to see when Hard Rock will initiate NJ sports betting.

Hard Rock and Caesars are the only two Atlantic City casinos without physical sports betting operations on their properties. Caesars, however, does have an online sports app and sportsbooks at its sister properties, Harrah’s and Bally’s.

That leaves Hard Rock without an Atlantic City sports betting presence. That is likely to change soon, however.

Hard Rock recently applied for a transactional waiver with the DGE, permitting it to open a sportsbook.

Initially, there was a rumor that sports betting might not be in the cards for Hard Rock because of Hard Rock International, its parent company, having naming rights to the NFL Miami Dolphins stadium in Florida.

Recent partnerships with Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) and Kindred Group put that rumor to rest and started new ones around when a sportsbook might happen. GiG, of course, powers Hard Rock’s NJ gambling site.

A press release announcing the GiG and Hard Rock partnership mentioned a fourth-quarter launch.

“Gaming Innovation Group Inc. (GiG) has signed a Letter of Intent with Hard Rock International (Hard Rock) for the provision of an omni-channel Sportsbook platform in the newly opened New Jersey, US market at its Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. The intention of the LOI is to execute an agreement and launch the Sportsbook in New Jersey in Q4 2018.”

Don’t look now, but we are nearly halfway through the fourth quarter. But that is about all we know. Hard Rock is keeping its sports betting plans close to the vest.

A bump in the road won’t stop Hard Rock

That is opposite of its approach when going through the renovations of the former Trump Taj Mahal. The company seemed to make headlines every day during that project.

Most sportsbooks have launched quickly, taking the public by surprise. Maybe Hard Rock is following suit.

The race to the top of the sports betting market is still on. Sure, Hard Rock got a little fine and is getting a late start, but it has a strong brand and a fancy new property working in its favor.

It is way too early to count anyone out of the game.